There is no doubt that Cross Riverians from all walks of life and indeed fans of CrossRiverState are eagerly looking forward to this year’s Calabar Festival, which usually begins and ends within 32 days in the month of December.
This is so because since the Festival began in 2005, there has never been a dull moment within the period, especially for fun lovers, who see the occasion as a time to relax, ease stress and explore the rich cultural and tourism potentials in the State. Not only due to tourism, but also sports and conferences of all sorts, which are now attracting uncountable number of visitors every year to the State.
Little wonder, CrossRiverState is today recognised in the global tourism calendar as a destination of choice and Africa’s most pleasurable home.
This year, of course, shall not be an exception as the celebration began with a tree lighting ceremony on November 30 and ends with New Year celebration on January 1 of the following year.
Within this period, features such as World AIDS Day walk, Christian musical concerts, musical talents displays, stage drama performances, novelty football match, royal dances, fitness exercises and skating competition are usually observed.
Other aspects of the celebration are poetry and essay competitions, cultural parades of local government areas, children concerts, charity golf games, Governor’s masked day, festival of arts and craft, carol night, carnival kings and queens competition, Carnival Calabar Queen contest, praise night, as well as children and adult carnival street parties.
Ahead of these street parties, carnival dry run is held three times ahead. The first and second, where all the five adult band participate, begin at the Eleven-Eleven Roundabout across Mary-Slessor to Marian Road, Ndidem Usang Iso Road to Efio-Ete Junction and MCC to Highway before terminating at the U. J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar.
The third dry run takes place within the second week of December. This occasion prepares band leaders and members for the actual street parties, which are being observed by no fewer than 20,000 visitors across states in the country and nations around the world.
Besides the fun, a good number of these visitors find this opportunity necessary in copying the state carnival and indeed its tourism model, while others are either coming for exchange of cultures or joining the people of the State to showcase their talents. Whatever the reason, however, the State and its visitors have always benefitted mutually.
Again, a situation where non-Cross Riverians in some cases win laurels in aspects of the festival demonstrates further the sincerity of government in making the State an open field for everyone who wishes to participate actively and showcase his or her talents. Interestingly, the festival has helped many who did not realise their God-given abilities before now to do so.
Furthermore, opportunity is always given business owners in the State whether Cross Riverians or non-Cross Riverians to boost their income through increased sales, patronages and equal involvement in the various market villages and bonanzas within the period. All of these are done in the absence of tax variations and business restrictions of whatever kind.
Therefore, the people, irrespective of their places of origin, must show appreciation to the leadership of the State for sustaining this celebration, and ensuring its yearly viability in the world tourism market. At no time have leaders in the State, whether political or community stayed back from participating in all parts of the celebration. It is surely an expression of the government’s political will to make governance participatory at all levels.
This should further charge everyone in the State to co-exist harmoniously with their neighbours at all times and avoid actions that could breach the peace which the State is known for.
They can further do this by always cooperating with constituted authorities in matters such as sanitation, grooming, traffic regulations and prompt and voluntary payments of taxes and other approved levies to government. Government will in turn use up these revenues in expanding infrastructures within the state, such as provision of potable water, rural roads, improved health care, security and quality education for the people.
Moreover, the people of the State remain grateful to the various companies doing businesses in the State, and others, who through corporate social responsibility, identify themselves with the laudable policies and programmes of the State Government, such as the yearly Calabar festival.
This support, which some of them give through sponsorships, is acknowledged and is seen as a complementary effort to government towards ensuring that no part of the State, and no one whether a Cross Riverian or Non-Crossriverian residing or visiting the State is denied access to good life in Cross River State, in line with a Nigerian proverb, which says: “A day of peace in times of stress is like a thousand days in paradise”. And Calabar is indeed a paradise city.
Mr Otei Oham , a public affairs commentator, wrote from Calabar